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5 Ways to Support A Family Member With a Drinking Problem

My eldest brother had not really been with us for many years. We had been losing him a little bit at a time to a disease we had long held off giving a name. We didn’t know what to call it. Sometimes we thought we knew, other times we felt blind. We held back from labels, organized dinner without wine when it seemed prudent, with wine when things seemed all right.

“We were just fumbling about in the dark. Because what we came to accept in those final years and what was more obvious than ever as we stood at his bedside, was that what had resulted in his latest, and final admission had a name. Steve was an alcoholic.”

Steve lost his life to alcohol use disorder after many years of struggling. And he’s not alone. An estimated 80,000 people lose their lives to alcohol use disorder each year in the United States.

It can be hard to recognize if someone’s drinking is a serious problem and how to help them. But as a family member of someone who is struggling, you are who they will trust most to support them. By taking these simple steps, you can help open the door to a road to recovery.

  1. Give reassurance and support.
    Interact with your loved one in a supportive and understanding way, rather than threatening, confronting or lecturing the person. Listen to them nonjudgmentally when it comes to their drinking habits and respond with an understanding and calm tone.
  2. Provide resources and information.
    If the person is willing to seek professional help, give them information about local options and encourage them to make an appointment. Offer to go with them to their appointment as a support system.
  3. Encourage an alcohol-free environment.
    Support the person’s efforts to change their drinking habits by encouraging an alcohol-free environment. If there is no alcohol present or people drinking around them, they are less likely to relapse.
  4. Join a support group.
    There are many support groups for families of alcoholics, such as Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics. Join a group to build relationships with others who may be in a similar situation, gather additional information and resources and to make sure you receive the support you need.
  5. Get trained in Mental Health First Aid.
    Mental Health First Aid training provides important information on how to identify the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder and additional ways to support a family member who may be struggling. Take a course today for more information on how you can #BeTheDifference.